When Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy confronted Elizabeth Bennett with his feelings for her, of which she’d, up to that point, remained completely unaware, he paired up the declaration with a number of insults, including a handful of jabs at the mannerisms and actions and inferior state of her family. As I think through Elizabeth’s family, all of what happened within the pages of that book, I remember not once when Elizabeth apologized for her family.
Even in the face of Mr. Darcy’s insults, while standing before Lady Catherine’s regal stature, while undergoing the difficult tension of Lydia and Mr. Wickham’s marriage, I can’t recall one time when Elizabeth let anyone in the community, not even Mr. Darcy, whom she would later marry, hear her speak poorly of her own family. The watcher, or reader, depending on how you’re digesting this story, looks into a family whose members are a mess, and yet they all eat breakfast together in the morning, dinner in the evening, the sisters share dresses and ribbons, they go out together, they dance together, they cry together, they are a family.
When I was little, a pre-teen really, I was ashamed of my family because of its state. And yet, the whole time I knew that if something bad really happened, then I could always count on them to be the protection and support I needed. I have not since being saved been ashamed of my family. Hurt? Of course. But I can’t believe God intended the family to be perfect.
Christ points to a family, during his ministry on earth, whose patriarch had two sons, one who was obedient to a tee, and one who broke the father’s heart and ran off with the father’s things. This parable is one of broken hearts, forgiveness, bitterness, celebration, and restoration (Luke 15:11-32). Hardly a family full of members exemplifying perfection.
It’s too easy, I think, to look at our families and think of how much better things could be, to think of all of the bad things we’ve gone through, how we’ve been hurt, how flawed and imperfect its members are.
There was a time when I wouldn’t talk to my brother. I couldn’t forgive him for all the things he’d done, couldn’t push past bitterness and pride to reach out and let him go, even though I was and still am less than perfect and continue to find myself at the feet of Christ, asking for forgiveness, going to others and asking for forgiveness. And yet Christ had called me as His redeemed daughter to forgive, regardless of the wrong done to me. I did forgive my brother, and we have a wonderful relationship now, and God continues to give me opportunities to love him and build him up, and He continues to show me just how much I need Him.
The more I learn about the state of the world, and the more I see hurt in the people around me, the more deeply convinced I become that the only way to truly be able to forgive anyone and heal from deep hurt is through Christ, considering how completely and absolutely He’s forgiven me. What right do I have to withhold forgiveness from someone when I have been rescued by Christ through forgiveness of my sins, through salvation from myself? Disciples of Christ can forgive only because they’ve experienced and have a redemptive knowledge of the most powerful forgiveness there is, which is, yes, God’s forgiveness.
What does this have to do with family?
Well, to borrow George Sanchez‘s words, God intended the family to be the basic unit, the basic reflection of all that He is. And by family, I mean on a base level a husband and wife. Just the married couple alone reflect both sides of God’s character, just like two sides of the same coin. So, if the family is meant to reflect God’s character, and if it’s meant to glorify Him, then He must think it’s important, along with everything that comes with it: broken hearts, trials, differences, disagreements, estrangements, restorations, healing, forgiveness, love…and, for the marriage, which begins the family, even romance, in fact, I have to believe that God is romance’s greatest advocate. He designed it perfectly, patriarchal set up and everything. God designed it that way, that the man would be the head of the household, the married couple a team, the wife the great supporter and encourager (though certainly not a doormat; more to come on that later), the children to honor their parents and be trained and loved and built up and cherished in the way of God and His word. God made the family to be this way (Ephesians 5:25-6:4), which means He must intend it for good, and not for bad, regardless of the people filling the roles.
For broken families: God is the God who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalms 147:3). God is the God who restores the lost and devises means so that the outcast will not remain so (2 Samuel 14:14). For families who have difficulty talking about the hard stuff: God is the God who sees (Genesis 16:13), who knows all of what’s in the hearts of men and women and children alike (Jeremiah 17:9-10), who knows the secrets and heartaches and problems of everyone (Psalm 139:1-4). For families without forgiveness: God, should they accept His forgiveness, His Son, His Holy Spirit, is able to sift away bitterness, soften hearts (Ezekiel 36:26), and break down walls of hurt and pride into soil of vulnerability and healing.
The more opportunities God gives me to spend time with Gracie, Jimmy, Mom, and Dad, the more I put myself in the breach, asking Him to use me to heal, love, encourage, affirm, be patient with, cherish, learn from, understand, and challenge them, the more I see how important family is to God. God really loves me, and He loves those that I love. He loves my mom, and my dad, and my brother and sister, and all of the rest of my family, including those who are not actually related to me, and I am not ashamed of them. I will not apologize for them. I will love them and cherish them, because Christ so perfectly loves and cherishes me.